Extraordinary Exes: Renée Zellweger and Lakshmin Mahadevan

To celebrate its 125th anniversary, the Texas Exes asked its members to share their stories, showing that what starts here truly changes the world. During the next few weeks, Know will feature 12 stories that show why these alums deserve the title "Extraordinary Exes."

Renée Zellweger

Renée Zellweger, B.A. 1992

Between hard work, great talent, a solid education and a pinch of luck, Academy-Award-winning actress Renée Zellweger took her act from the Houston suburbs to Hollywood's upper echelon.

Born in Katy, Texas, Zellweger came to The University of Texas at Austin for an English degree. Along the way, she waited tables and took a drama class that inspired her to pursue acting. Early roles in local films such as "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" led to a breakout role in "Jerry Maguire." From there, the versatile Zellweger has starred in memorable musicals ("Chicago"), comedies ("Bridget Jones's Diary") and dramas ("Cold Mountain," for which she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress).

Lakshmin Mahadevan

Lakshmin Mahadevan, M.S. 1987

Professor L. Mahadevan is an elite mathematician who works for practical applications rather than great abstractions. He applies complex mathematical analysis to physical and biological sciences, studying questions like why skin wrinkles and why flags flutter.

He has held prestigious teaching positions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge and Trinity College. In 2009, he won a MacArthur "genius" grant.

"The unusually broad scope of his theoretical and experimental investigations defies facile categorization," the MacArthur Foundation noted, "but they are linked by an effort to discover the geometric and mechanical principles that determine the behavior of complex biological and physical systems."

Mahadevan frames his work more simply.

"In the end," he has said, "it is driven by what drives us all -- curiosity."

View a full list of Extraordinary Exes on the Texas Exes Web site.